Back in 2013, we featured a brand new Bianchi Methanol 29FS — the pride and joy of Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team founder and manager Mike Blewitt. After an intense racing season, however, his beloved carbon frame had sustained some damage.
To restore the frame, Mike, who’s also the editor of Australian Mountainbike Magazine, sought out Queensland’s Paint My Bike — who not only paint bikes, but can just about resurrect a carbon frame from a terminal injury.
Given the fierce thrashing that Mike dealt his Bianchi, it’s really no surprise the frame suffered. It was taken to the 2013 Cape Epic, and most major Australian marathon races in 2013 and 2014, including the 2014 Crocodile Trophy, Easter in the Alice, Capital Punishment, National XCM Champs, and plenty of local races in South East Queensland.
In total, Subaru-MarathonMTB were supplied four Methanol 29FS frames, of which Mike’s wife Imogen —also a team member — was riding. She won the 2014 Bayview Blast National XCM round on hers, after that year’s Cape to Cape.
Mike had a new ceramic bottom bracket to install, which would hopefully let him run Shimano cranks. The Bianchi Methanol 29 FS runs a PF30 BB, like the hardtails do, but it’s lipped, which will only fit a BB with shallow cups.
“This is one of the reasons I used Cannondale cranks,” Mike tells us, “as they’re light, stiff, have interchangeable spiders, and can take direct mount rings. Thanks to the PF30 shell type on this frame, most conversion BBs like Kogel, Ceramic Speed, Praxis and others just don’t fit, as they have deeper cups than a stock FSA or SRAM PF30 unit.”
Mike tells the story: “I’d taken a file to the lip and went to push in a C-Bear unit. The tight tolerances of the cups, and some cable rub below the shell ended up in a crack, running around the BB shell. I still have a C-bear shaped dent in my garage wall after hitting the cups out.”
“We were moving to Norco for the team bikes anyway, as Bianchi Australia were no longer importing MTBs to Australia. I’d bought out our frames and sold Imogen’s to Condor’s bike designer in London, who is an old friend and handy mountain biker.
“My Kappius wheels had been sold as well — although the set I had in 2013 morphed into a pair of Kappius’ own rim and a set of KH1.5 hubs after the original hub set imploded on Stage 1 of the 2013 Transalp. I had held onto the frame since then. It wasn’t covered under warranty as the damage that created the crack was deemed rock strike — although it was probably cable rub if anything, along with a very thin section of carbon.
“I always knew I wanted to have it repaired, and probably painted celeste or matte black with a celeste logo. But such work doesn’t come cheaply and with four XTR-equipped Norco Revolvers in the garage — plus road bikes and Norco Sight Carbon trail bikes — having the funds to do so took a while.”
“Paint my Bike managed to not only just complete a tricky repair, but they came up with a few design options for me. I wanted something unique, something that was clearly a Bianchi, but at the same time got rid of some of the paint design clutter that the previous paint job had.
“The whole thing is paint, no stickers, which means all that detail work was hand cut by their designer. The whole team at PMB are perfectionists. From customer service, to design, to paint. And that’s why the finished product looks so good.
“While I was keen on a matte or satin finish, the ceramic gloss makes more sense on a mountain bike, as much for wiping dust away as durability. Most frame polishes turn a matte finish to gloss anyway.
His ‘new’ Methanol was built back up with a mix of original and new parts: “The Syntace seatpost and Mt Zoom bars are the exact items I had been running. The headset is the same, save for a custom painted top cover.
“An FSA PF30 BB is back in there, with new-ish 172.5mm Cannondale SI cranks. The M9000 parts are pretty fresh, and I ran the stock cable routing under the downtube — modern versions of this bike are internal and have Di2 ports.
“I used to run the outer via the shock lockout areas and zip-tied to the seat stay for a shorter and slicker shifting option. Wheels are the original NoTubes Valor. They have seen a lot of use, but at 1.28kg I’ve never owned a lighter set of wheels, on road, MTB or CX tubs.
“I did splash out on a New Fox 32SC fork, and that helps keep the total weight of the bike down to 9.8kg with pedals. The weight is still highly competitive. My current race bike is 10.8kg, although I have stiffer wheels, tires with reinforced sidewalls and a dropper post — all things which actually help to go faster in my opinion.
“Geometry has changed a lot too, this frame is noticeably shorter in reach and steeper in the head angle than a current XC bike. 2019 is bringing more than a few models that are pushing out to 68.5-degree head angles, and with over 30mm more reach than this frame for the same size.”
Overall, Mike is stoked with the result, and it’s easy to see why: “I’m astounded by the quality of the finish by Paint My Bike. This is a bike I’m so proud to own, even though I might not even ride it much.
It has so many memories for me, probably the strongest are from the Swiss Epic, where I got to start three stages in the leader’s jersey on the front row, with my sporting heroes and lined up next to my then-fiance, whose grit and determination got us there. I’ll never forget that experience and this bike is a key link to that too.”
Massive thanks to Mike for the photos and story — for a more in-depth look at Paint My Bike’s processes, check out the next issue of Australian Mountainbike Magazine.